The peak body for Australian GPs has spoken out against the Morrison government’s controversial Religious Discrimination Bill over fears around healthcare access for LGBTIQ people and women.
The Coalition will introduce the third draft of the long-delayed legislation to parliament next week.
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash (pictured) has spent months working on the as-yet-unseen new draft of the Bill.
However Dr Karen Price, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said they fear the changes will lead to discrimination in healthcare for LGBTIQ Aussies.
“It’s unnecessary to introduce ‘religious freedom’ laws when these rights are already protected under Australian law,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Furthermore, we remain concerned of the potential impact of the bill on the delivery and access to some women’s health services, and vulnerable groups’ access to suitable healthcare or particular health services.
“The proposed law could compound negative community attitudes toward those most vulnerable including minority groups and the LGBTQI+ community, as well as those in rural areas with fewer health services available.
“Given Australia is already in the grips of a mental health crisis, we must do everything in our power to prevent this.”
Attorney-General dumps ‘Israel Folau clause’ after backlash
The Morrison Government has not yet publicly released the new draft of the legislation.
But media reports have suggested Senator Cash has dumped a clause allowing health providers to refuse treatment on the basis of “conscientious objection”.
Cash has also reportedly dumped the controversial “Israel Folau clause”. That section would have protected workers making offensive comments about others if based on religious belief.
However LGBTIQ group just.equal say other problems likely remain in the legislation.
The laws would reportedly override existing state anti-discrimination protections, particularly Tasmania’s, to allow religious statements of belief that will humiliate, intimidate and insult LGBTIQ+ people and others, just.equal’s Brian Grieg said.
“The Bill remains an unprecedented attack on discrimination protections that have helped foster greater tolerance and inclusion,” he said.
“It is unprecedented for any Federal Government to attack existing state discrimination protections for vulnerable minorities, including people with disability.
“Scott Morrison promised a Bill that would prevent discrimination on the ground of religion, not promote it in the name of religion.
“This fight isn’t over until he fulfils that promise.”
Greens slam ‘friendless’ Religious Discrimination Bill
Federal Labor have said they won’t declare a position on the Bill until they see the Coalition’s new draft.
Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice also said this week very few MPs had seen the latest draft and called for transparency.
“Australians deserve a transparent process, not leaks out of Cabinet,” she tweeted.
“Especially with a bill as fraught and friendless as this one. It must go to a Senate inquiry for genuine scrutiny.
“Any bill that enables discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people, women, people with disabilities, minority faiths, or First Nations people is unacceptable.
“Anti-discrimination laws should protect everyone.”
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